Developing a Food Safety Culture for Your Business
Knowing proper food safety rules and guidelines is integral to the success of your business. A robust food safety culture will do wonders for staying compliant.
What is Food Safety Culture?
A food safety culture is defined as the food safety values, beliefs, and attitudes shared by any group of people. A healthy food safety culture of an organization demonstrates the sheer commitment of its employees and decision-makers to making food safe for consumption.
If we study the foodborne incidents reports, it'll show that the maximum incidents were caused due to deviation from safe practices. This indicates that the food safety culture largely depends on the values, vision, and behavior of an organization as a whole. It is also dependent on the safety and risk awareness of employees.
Implementing a strong safety culture doesn't have to be complicated. It all just boils down to the commitment of management and employees to ensuring safety standards and procedures are followed on a daily basis.
The Evolution of Food Safety Culture
The concept of food safety culture evolved with occupational health and safety standards. Like occupational health and safety, food safety culture was first focused on the workplace, equipment, and procedures.
Gradually this shifted to focusing on the role of management in the safety culture. There has been a significant change observed in food safety culture. A study published in 2019 has recommended an improvement in food safety performance by combining cultural science, social science, and food science.
Essentially, the study illustrates that to reduce deaths from foodborne diseases, organizations and businesses need to engage their workforce into changing basic unsafe habits like thawing food on the counter and not washing hands before handling the food. Moreover, there is a need for complete transparency and communication between management and staff on a daily basis to curb unsafe procedures and practices.
Then, and only then, can the organization implement an influential safety culture.
Organizing the Vision of Food Safety Culture
It is the responsibility of every food business to instill a culture of food safety to ensure the highest standard of care for the products they sell. But how can you work to organize this vision for your business?
Consistency of Message
Firstly, make your policy clear to everyone. When it comes to adherence to food safety protocols, negligence will not be tolerated. Ensure that all employees understand why it's crucial to abide by all guidelines and failure to comply could lead to termination of employment.
Reiterate your safety policy and procedures during training, meetings, audits, and inspections.
Across the Board Accountability
Make sure that you lead by example. When employees see upper management complying with rules, they will be more inclined to follow your lead and take food safety seriously.
If anyone is not following the safety protocols, take corrective or disciplinary actions like fines, pay cuts, re-training, and even sacking; regardless of their position or seniority. It will not only strengthen your safety culture but also improve the morale of your employees because you are treating every staff member equally.
Set Clear Expectations
In an organization with a strong food safety culture, all employees are expected to follow safety procedures as a shared value. Tell employees how to conduct themselves and what they should do if they see someone violating safety rules.
Incorporating Food Safety in Your Organizational Culture
Every organization has a different culture, but here are some general guidelines on how to integrate food safety in your organization's culture-
Start at The Top- Make sure that the upper management in your business knows they are not exempt from following the procedures, and they will be under more scrutiny if found not adhering to the safety rules.
Explain The Reasoning- Tell your employees why it's necessary to follow these procedures. Explain all the pros of strong food safety culture, as well as the cons.
Provision of Training and Equipment- The employer is duty-bound to provide all the necessary training to his staff. The employer should offer refresher courses and continuous updates for staff to keep food safety, a top priority. The employer should also provide tools to prepare food safely. For instance, there should be calibrated thermometers at every workstation so that employees can regularly check food temperatures.
Monitoring- Monitor safety compliance of the staff by self-inspections daily. Keep the safety records for future references. If you find any irregularities or non-compliance, address the issue as soon as possible.
Keep Your Policy Up-to-date- Make regular changes to your food safety policy per the national or local rules and regulations. Don't forget to keep the staff apprised of any changes in the policy.
Drawbacks of Weak Food Safety Culture
Increased Risk of Lawsuits
If the food safety culture is not strong, there will be an increased risk of outbreaks due to food contamination. This will expose the business to criminal negligence lawsuits and bankruptcy.
Health and Safety Issues
When you and your employees don't take food safety seriously, your customers will be more prone to foodborne diseases. Negligence to food safety protocols can also lead to outbreaks that affect the health and safety of many.
A poor health and safety culture in your restaurant will imply to your customers that you don't really care about their safety. This will result in bad reviews and negative publicity. Even one bad review can have an everlasting effect on the business.
Loss of Sales
Negative publicity about your weak food safety protocols will lead to fewer customers and sales. As a result, you will lose out on significant profits while your competitors benefit from your loss.
Low Employee Morale
If you don't provide safe working conditions for your staff, it will affect their morale and productivity. If your employees are not happy, it will impact on their behavior towards your customers and hurt your profits.
- A food safety culture is defined as the sum of the organization's shared food safety values, beliefs, and attitudes.
- Food safety culture has now evolved into a multi-disciplinary culture by combining cultural sciences, social Sciences, and Food Sciences.
- A clear policy, across the board accountability, and clearly set expectations play a significant role in organizing the vision of food safety culture.
- To incorporate robust food safety culture in an organization, the organization needs to start from the top tier management and then work their way down. The organization also needs to provide all the necessary safety training and equipment to its staff. In addition to that, the upper management needs to monitor safety compliance continually and update its policies regularly according to the set standards.
- If the poor safety culture is nurtured in the organization, there will be an increased risk of fines, health and safety issues, loss of sales, and low employee morale.
Therefore, it is pertinent for any foodservice business to nurture a robust food safety culture for its success and safety.